The Election: The Five-Hundred Pound Gorilla in your Living Room

The ElectionI’ve debated writing a blog about the election for a while. I don’t believe Southern Exposure is the right place for politics. In fact I’m sure it’s not. At the same time I like to think what I say here is relevant to our daily lives, mine and yours.

Last Sunday’s inspirational post was about the delights of autumn. Truthfully, I think this particular autumn hasn’t been nearly as delightful as usual for anybody who reads the news, turns on their television set or even drives down the street.

The election is overshadowing so much. A woman in our city was a recent victim of road rage because of her political bumper sticker. Social media has become a frightening place to visit. I’ve watched the destruction of long-standing friendships, and authors forced to step forward and defend deeply-held opinions, knowing that by doing so, they will lose readers.

Anger and frustration have taken over the airwaves and our print media. An appeal to violence is no longer subtle. Hints of conspiracies and blatant threats against fellow candidates contribute to a national atmosphere of uncertainty and fear.

But you know all that. Right? Because you breathe the same air we all do. Even if you’re reading about the election from a different country, you are slack-jawed and open-mouthed at what you see.

My point today is not to tell you how to vote. I love being part of a democracy where voters have choices, and the right to make them. I have never walked in your shoes, heard exactly what you’ve heard, been raised by your parents or sat at the dinner table with your spouse.

If we really believe in this amazing government of ours, then we also believe that people of good will, people who have carefully considered issues–not simply their own volatile emotions–will make the right choices. Not always. And perhaps not even in our immediate future, but I am a fan of this quote by Theodore Parker, born in 1810, a Unitarian minister and Transcendentalist.

“Look at the facts of the world. You see a continual and progressive triumph of the right. I do not pretend to understand the moral universe, the arc is a long one, my eye reaches but little ways. I cannot calculate the curve and complete the figure by the experience of sight; I can divine it by conscience. But from what I see I am sure it bends towards justice.”

If that sounds vaguely familiar? More recently Martin Luther King paraphrased Parker’s quote this way: “The arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice.”

Together can we help that moral arc bend a bit faster toward its “continual and progressive triumph?”

Here are some things we might try together in the next weeks as the election draws nearer to make a difference in our own lives and the lives of people we love.

  • Mindful meditation. Let’s stop reacting to every comment, every new accusation, and instead take charge of our own emotions. Let’s take some time each day to breathe, to let our minds drift and our bodies relax.
  • Pray for peace. If we’re comfortable with prayer, let’s pray for a better understanding of each other, for patience, tolerance, clarity of thought, and a return to an agenda that puts making our world safer and more livable right at the top.
  • Get our facts straight. Let’s not believe everything we read. If something sounds too ridiculous to be true, it may be. Let’s use good sources, responsible journalists and pundits, researchers, fact-checkers without a specific political agenda. There’s a lot of garbage out there and it’s not limited to one party or the other. Dig for the real story. Let’s never settle for less.
  • Resist the impulse to make enemies of old friends. “Unfollow” people on social media who upset you, at least until the election is over, but don’t abandon them for good. If we find we must comment on a post or a tweet, comment without anger, acknowledging the other person’s right to his/her opinions. Don’t preach and don’t use sarcasm. When tempted, let’s try to remember a time when either a sermon or an insult made us change our minds about anything. Bet we can’t.
  • When faced with prejudice and anger, try the following tips from a recent article in the New York Times. Change the subject, often the only thing needed. If we must comment keep our tone and demeanor gentle and kind; don’t publicly embarrass anybody; and most interesting? Assume people, even the most bigoted, are able to change. If we go into a confrontation with a light touch and a positive attitude, the chances it will end positively are better.
  • Work for the candidates we support. Instead of getting angry, let’s get results.

There’s a lot at stake in this election. We can’t ignore that. But we can approach the final weeks of campaigning with the most positive attitude we can muster. And when all else fails?

The five hundred pound gorilla in your living room probably really weighs about twenty pounds. Turn off your television and read a good book. (I can recommend a few.) Smile more, call your kids or your parents, bake cookies. Your happiness counts. The more you project happiness and calm, the better place our world will be.


  1. Iris November on October 19, 2016 at 4:35 am

    Thank you– being glued to this election is truly troubling– just can’t stop watching TV!!! I’m making apple sauce today after driving in the country and loving the changing colors on the trees. I’m a little lighter in my soul and soon the condo will be filled with cinnamon and apple air!!! Hugs to you, iris

  2. Linda on October 19, 2016 at 8:55 am

    As always, your advice is good and sound. Thank you! I’ll pull weeds today, make meatloaf tomorrow, and hold my thong tonight at dinner with a friend with opposite political beliefs.

  3. Marilyn Cox on October 19, 2016 at 8:56 am

    Thank you for your insightful comments! I am especially grateful for your suggestions! My admiration and love go out to you!

  4. Kathleen on October 19, 2016 at 9:44 am

    Very thoughtful response Emilie…..
    You accomplished writing in a way that leaves the door wide-open to the candidate of our choice.
    People are talking more about the selection than many many elections I’ve witnessed in my lifetime. The polarization of opinions in recent elections is stronger as time passes.
    Today is a beautiful day for a country drive with a best friend to see a terrific theatrical show Samson.
    God be with this country and our decisions.

  5. CPW Gal on October 19, 2016 at 12:38 pm


  6. Penny Prichard on October 19, 2016 at 1:39 pm

    Last spring a colleague of mine was solidly for a candidate I would never support. Over the summer he experienced a change of mind. One of the most illuminating and enjoyable conversations I have had recently was genuinely listening to his reasons for supporting the candidate he is now supporting. We are still supporting different candidates but I learned a great deal. I was also able to share with him – calmly and without rancor – why I support the candidate I am supporting. Another colleague witnessed this exchange and has now decided how she is going to vote. We are all still friends.

    I miss the days when candidates tried to prove how they were the best person for the job rather than brutalizing their opponent in an effort to prove the opponents unsuitability for the position.

    I feel very strongly in support of my candidates for several races – more strongly than I have felt in many years, if ever. I appreciate, deeply, Emilie’s reminder that it is more important to remain friends throughout this whole process. I have some friends who are very vocally supporting opposing candidates. On Facebook I “like” their pictures of their grandchildren and ignore their political posts. So far it is working.

    • Emilie Richards on October 19, 2016 at 1:50 pm

      Your patience and calm are unusual these days, so you’re a great influence on those around you. Don’t forget you can “unfollow” people on FB until you’re ready to “follow” them again. They won’t know, and you won’t have to do the hokey-pokey to be their friend again. You stay friends. OTOH sounds like you’re able to just move through the things that upset you. So nice to hear that.

  7. Nancy Lepri on October 19, 2016 at 9:56 pm

    Thank you, Em!

  8. Pat Kennedy on October 19, 2016 at 11:22 pm

    Hi Emilie,
    I read your excellent message, this morning and sent it off to 24 friends who have shared their concerns as well.
    I have gotten several replies including how scary this election has become. The sad thing is how much mean spiritedness has come out. From both sides. I am looking forward to the end of it all.
    Thanks so very much for a calm, peaceful, thoughtful and grounding view of what we and the rest of the world are sadly witnessing.

  9. Betty on October 20, 2016 at 7:52 pm

    We are in a 40 day prayer and fasting for our country. That is our way to over come the media and find God’s voice.

  10. Marna on October 19, 2020 at 12:10 pm

    Facebook reminded me that I had shared this four years ago today. Every word you wrote is as true today as it was then.

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